Every State is a community of some kind, and every community is established witha view to some good; for mankind always act in order to obtain that which theythink good. But, if all communities aim at some good, the state or politicalcommunity, which is the highest of all, and which embraces all the rest, aims atgood in a greater degree than any other, and at the highest good.
Some people think that the qualifications of a statesman, king, householder, andmaster are the same, and that they differ, not in kind, but only in the number oftheir subjects. For example, the ruler over a few is called a master; over more, themanager of a household; over a still larger number, a statesman or king, as if therewere no difference between a great household and a small state. The distinctionwhich is made between the king and the statesman is as follows: When thegovernment is personal, the ruler is a king; when, according to the rules of thepolitical science, the citizens rule and are ruled in turn, then he is called astatesman.
But all this is a mistake; for governments differ in kind, as will be evident to anyone who considers the matter according to the method which has hitherto guidedus. As in other departments of science, so in politics, the compound should alwaysbe resolved into the simple elements or least parts of the whole. We must thereforelook at the elements of which the state is composed, in order that we may see inwhat the different kinds of rule differ from one another, and whether any scientificresult can be attained about each one of them.
He who thus considers things in their first growth and origin, whether a state oranything else, will obtain the clearest view of them. In the first place there must bea union of those who cannot exist without each other; namely, of male and female,that the race may continue (and this is a union which is formed, not of deliberatepurpose, but because, in common with other animals and with plants, mankindhave a natural desire to leave behind them an image of themselves), and of naturalruler and subject, that both may be preserved. For that which can foresee by the
exercise of mind is by nature intended to be lord and master, and that which canwith its body give effect to such foresight is a subject, and by nature a slave; hencemaster and slave have the same interest. Now nature has distinguished between thefemale and the slave. For she is not niggardly, like the smith who fashions theDelphian knife for many uses; she makes each thing for a single use, and everyinstrument is best made when intended for one and not for many uses. But amongbarbarians no distinction is made between women and slaves, because there is nonatural ruler among them: they are a community of slaves, male and female. Wherefore the poets say, –
It is meet that Hellenes should rule over barbarians;
as if they thought that the barbarian and the slave were by nature one.
Out of these two relationships between man and woman, master and slave, the firstthing to arise is the family, and Hesiod is right when he says, –
First house and wife and an ox for the plough,
for the ox is the poor man’s slave. The family is the association established bynature for the supply of men's everyday wants, and the members of it are called byCharondas ‘companions of the cupboard,’ and by Epimenides the Cretan,‘companions of the manger.’ But when several families are united, and theassociation aims at something more than the supply of daily needs, the first societyto be formed is the village. And the most natural form of the village appears to bethat of a colony from the family, composed of the children and grandchildren, whoare said to be suckled ‘with the same milk.’ And this is the reason why Hellenicstates were originally governed by kings; because the Hellenes were under royalrule before they came together, as the barbarians still are. Every family is ruled bythe eldest, and therefore in the colonies of the family the kingly form ofgovernment prevailed because they were of the same blood. As Homer says:
Each one gives law to his children and to his wives.
For they lived dispersedly, as was the manner in ancient times. Wherefore men saythat the Gods have a king, because they themselves either are or were in ancienttimes under the rule of a king. For they imagine, not only the forms of the Gods,but their ways of life to be like their own.
When several villages are united in a single complete community, large enough tobe nearly or quite self-sufficing, the state comes into existence, originating in thebare needs of life, and continuing in existence for the sake of a good life. Andtherefore, if the earlier forms of society are natural, so is the state, for it is the endof them, and the nature of a thing is its end. For what each thing is when fullydeveloped, we call its nature, whether we are speaking of a man, a horse, or afamily. Besides, the final cause and end of a thing is the best, and to be self-sufficing is the end and the best.
Hence it is evident that the state is a creation of nature, and that man is by nature apolitical animal. And he who by nature and not by mere accident is without a state,is either a bad man or above humanity; he is like the
whom Homer denounces – the natural outcast is forthwith a lover of war; he maybe compared to an isolated piece at draughts.
Now, that man is more of a political animal than bees or any other gregariousanimals is evident. Nature, as we often say, makes nothing in vain, and man is theonly animal whom she has endowed with the gift of speech. And whereas merevoice is but an indication of pleasure or pain, and is therefore found in otheranimals (for their nature attains to the perception of pleasure and pain and theintimation of them to one another, and no further), the power of speech is intendedto set forth the expedient and inexpedient, and therefore likewise the just and theunjust. And it is a characteristic of man that he alone has any sense of good andevil, of just and unjust, and the like, and the association of living beings who havethis sense makes a family and a state.
Further, the state is by nature clearly prior to the family and to the individual, sincethe whole is of necessity prior to the part; for example, if the whole body bedestroyed, there will be no foot or hand, except in an equivocal sense, as we mightspeak of a stone hand; for when destroyed the hand will be no better than that. Butthings are defined by their working and power; and we ought not to say that theyare the same when they no longer have their proper quality, but only that they havethe same name. The proof that the state is a creation of nature and prior to theindividual is that the individual, when isolated, is not self-sufficing; and therefore
he is like a part in relation to the whole. But he who is unable to live in society, orwho has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must be either a beast or agod: he is no part of a state. A social instinct is implanted in all men by nature, andyet he who first founded the state was the greatest of benefactors. For man, whenperfected, is the best of animals, but, when separated from law and justice, he is theworst of all; since armed injustice is the more dangerous, and he is equipped atbirth with arms, meant to be used by intelligence and excellence, which he may usefor the worst ends. Wherefore, if he have not excellence, he is the most unholy andthe most savage of animals, and the most full of lust and gluttony. But justice is thebond of men in states, for the administration of justice, which is the determinationof what is just, is the principle of order in political society.
He who would inquire into the essence and attributes of various kinds ofgovernments must first of all determine ‘What is a state?’ At present this is adisputed question. Some say that the state has done a certain act; others, no, not thestate, but the oligarchy or the tyrant. And the legislator or statesman is concernedentirely with the state; a constitution or government being an arrangement of theinhabitants of a state. But a state is composite, like any other whole made up ofmany parts; these are the citizens, who compose it. It is evident, therefore, that wemust begin by asking, Who is the citizen, and what is the meaning of the term? Forhere again there may be a difference of opinion. He who is a citizen in ademocracy will often not be a citizen in an oligarchy. Leaving out of considerationthose who have been made citizens, or who have obtained the name of citizen anyother accidental manner, we may say, first, that a citizen is not a citizen because helives in a certain place, for resident aliens and slaves share in the place; nor is he acitizen who has no legal right except that of suing and being sued; for this rightmay be enjoyed under the provisions of a treaty. Nay, resident aliens in manyplaces do not possess even such rights completely, for they are obliged to have apatron, so that they do but imperfectly participate in citizenship, and we call themcitizens only in a qualified sense, as we might apply the term to children who aretoo young to be on the register, or to old men who have been relieved from stateduties. Of these we do not say quite simply that they are citizens, but add in the onecase that they are not of age, and in the other, that they are past the age, orsomething of that sort; the precise expression is immaterial, for our meaning isclear. Similar difficulties to those which I have mentioned may be raised andanswered about deprived citizens and about exiles. But the citizen whom we are
seeking to define is a citizen in the strictest sense, against whom no such exceptioncan be taken, and his special characteristic is that he shares in the administration ofjustice, and in offices. Now of offices some are discontinuous, and the samepersons are not allowed to hold them twice, or can only hold them after a fixedinterval; others have no limit of time – for example, the office of juryman ormember of the assembly. It may, indeed, be argued that these are not magistrates atall, and that their functions give them no share in the government. But surely it isridiculous to say that those who have the power do not govern. Let us not dwellfurther upon this, which is a purely verbal question; what we want is a commonterm including both juryman and member of the assembly. Let us, for the sake ofdistinction, call it ‘indefinite office,’ and we will assume that those who share insuch office are citizens. This is the most comprehensive definition of a citizen, andbest suits all those who are generally so called.
But we must not forget that things of which the underlying principles differ inkind, one of them being first, another second, another third, have, when regarded inthis relation, nothing, or hardly anything, worth mentioning in common. Now wesee that governments differ in kind, and that some of them are prior and that othersare posterior; those which are faulty or perverted are necessarily posterior to thosewhich are perfect. (What we mean by perversion will be hereafter explained.) Thecitizen then of necessity differs under each form of government; and our definitionis best adapted to the citizen of a democracy; but not necessarily to other states. For in some states the people are not acknowledged, nor have they any regularassembly, but only extraordinary ones; and suits are distributed by sections amongthe magistrates. At Lacedaemon, for instance, the Ephors determine suits aboutcontracts, which they distribute among themselves, while the elders are judges ofhomicide, and other causes are decided by other magistrates. A similar principleprevails at Carthage; there certain magistrates decide all causes. We may, indeed,modify our definition of the citizen so as to include these states. In them it is theholder of a definite, not of an indefinite office, who legislates and judges, and tosome or all such holders of definite offices is reserved the right of deliberating orjudging about some things or about all things. The conception of the citizen nowbegins to clear up.
He who has the power to take part in the deliberative or judicial administration ofany state is said by us to be a citizens of that state; and, speaking generally, a stateis a body of citizens sufficing for the purposes of life.
Having determined these questions, we have next to consider whether there is onlyone form of government or many, and if many, what they are, and how many, andwhat are the differences between them.
A constitution is the arrangement of magistracies in a state, especially of thehighest of all. The government is everywhere sovereign in the state, and theconstitution is in fact the government. For example, in democracies the people aresupreme, but in oligarchies, the few; and, therefore, we say that these two forms ofgovernment also are different: and so in other cases.
First, let us consider what is the purpose of a state, and how many forms ofgovernment there are by which human society is regulated. We have already said,in the first part of this treatise, when discussing household management and therule of a master, that man is by nature a political animal. And therefore, men, evenwhen they do not require one another’s help, desire to live together; not but thatthey are also brought together by their common interests in proportion as theyseverally attain to any measure of well-being. This is certainly the chief end, bothof individuals and of states. And also for the sake of mere life (in which there ispossibly some noble element so long as the evils of existence do not greatlyoverbalance the good) mankind meet together and maintain the politicalcommunity. And we all see that men cling to life even at the cost of enduring greatmisfortune, seeming to find in life a natural sweetness and happiness.
There is no difficulty in distinguishing the various kinds of authority; they havebeen often defined already in discussions outside the school. The rule of a master,although the slave by nature and the master by nature have in reality the sameinterests, is nevertheless exercised primarily with a view to the interest of themaster, but accidentally considers the slave, since, if the slave perish, the rule ofthe master perishes with him. On the other hand, the government of a wife andchildren and of a household, which we have called household management, isexercised in the first instance for the good of the governed or for the common goodof both parties, but essentially for the good of the governed, as we see to be thecase in medicine, gymnastic, and the arts in general, which are only accidentallyconcerned with the good of the artists themselves. For there is no reason why thetrainer may not sometimes practice gymnastics, and the helmsman is always one ofthe crew. The trainer or the helmsman considers the good of those committed to his
care. But, when he is one of the persons taken care of, he accidentally participatesin the advantage, for the helmsman is also a sailor, and the trainer becomes one ofthose in training. And so in politics: when the state is framed upon the principle ofequality and likeness, the citizens think that they ought to hold office by turns. Formerly, as is natural, every one would take his turn of service; and then again,somebody else would look after his interest, just as he, while in office, had lookedafter theirs. But nowadays, for the sake of the advantage which is to be gainedfrom the public revenues and from office, men want to be always in office. Onemight imagine that the rulers, being sickly, were only kept in health while theycontinued in office; in that case we may be sure that they would be hunting afterplaces. The conclusion is evident: that governments which have a regard to thecommon interest are constituted in accordance with strict principles of justice, andare therefore true forms; but those which regard only the interest of the rulers areall defective and perverted forms, for they are despotic, whereas a state is acommunity of freemen.
Having determined these points, we have next to consider how many forms ofgovernment there are, and what they are; and in the first place what are the trueforms, for when they are determined the perversions of them will at once beapparent. The words constitution and government have the same meaning, and thegovernment, which is the supreme authority in states, must be in the hands of one,or of a few, or of the many. The true forms of government, therefore, are those inwhich the one, or the few, or the many, govern with a view to the common interest;but governments which rule with a view to the private interest, whether of the oneor of the few, or of the many, are perversions. For the members of a state, if theyare truly citizens, ought to participate in its advantages. Of forms of government inwhich one rules, we call that which regards the common interests, kingship orroyalty; that in which more than one, but not many, rule, aristocracy; and it is socalled, either because the rulers are the best men, or because they have at heart thebest interests of the state and of the citizens. But when the citizens at largeadminister the state for the common interest, the government is called by thegeneric name – a constitution. And there is a reason for this use of language. Oneman or a few may excel in excellence; but as the number increases it becomesmore difficult for them to attain perfection in every kind of excellence, though theymay in military excellence, for this is found in the masses. Hence in aconstitutional government the fighting-men have the supreme power, and those
Of the above-mentioned forms, the perversions are as follows: of royalty, tyranny;of aristocracy, oligarchy; of constitutional government, democracy. For tyranny is akind of monarchy which has in view the interest of the monarch only; oligarchyhas in view the interest of the wealthy; democracy, of the needy: none of them thecommon good of all.
But there are difficulties about these forms of government, and it will therefore benecessary to state a little more at length the nature of each of them. For he whowould make a philosophical study of the various sciences, and does not regardpractice only, ought not to overlook or omit anything, but to set forth the truth inevery particular. Tyranny, as I was saying, is monarchy exercising the rule of amaster over the political society; oligarchy is when men of property have thegovernment in their hands; democracy, the opposite, when the indigent, and not themen of property, are the rulers. And here arises the first of our difficulties, and itrelates to the distinction drawn. For democracy is said to be the government of themany. But what if the many are men of property and have the power in theirhands? In like manner oligarchy is said to be the government of the few; but whatif the poor are fewer than the rich, and have the power in their hands because theyare stronger? In these cases the distinction which we have drawn between thesedifferent forms of government would no longer hold good.
Suppose, once more, that we add wealth to the few and poverty to the many, andname the governments accordingly – an oligarchy is said to be that in which thefew and the wealthy, and a democracy that in which the many and the poor are therulers – there will still be a difficulty. For, if the only forms of government are theones already mentioned, how shall we describe those other governments also justmentioned by us, in which the rich are the more numerous and the poor are thefewer, and both govern in their respective states?
The argument seems to show that, whether in oligarchies or in democracies, thenumber of the governing body, whether the greater number, as in a democracy, orthe smaller number, as in an oligarchy, is an accident due to the fact that the richeverywhere are few, and the poor numerous. But if so, there is a misapprehensionof the causes of the difference between them. For the real difference between
democracy and oligarchy is poverty and wealth. Wherever men rule by reason oftheir wealth, whether they be few or many, that is an oligarchy, and where the poorrule, that is a democracy. But as a fact the rich are few and the poor many; for feware well-to-do, whereas freedom is enjoyed by an, and wealth and freedom are thegrounds on which the oligarchical and democratic parties respectively claim powerin the state.
Let us begin by considering the common definitions of oligarchy and democracy,and what is justice oligarchical and democratic. For all men cling to justice ofsome kind, but their conceptions are imperfect and they do not express the wholeidea. For example, justice is thought by them to be, and is, equality – not, however,for all, but only for equals. And inequality is thought to be, and is, justice; neitheris this for all, but only for unequals. When the persons are omitted, then men judgeerroneously. The reason is that they are passing judgment on themselves, and mostpeople are bad judges in their own case. And whereas justice implies a relation topersons as well as to things, and a just distribution, as I have already said in theEthics, implies the same ratio between the persons and between the things, theyagree about the equality of the things, but dispute about the equality of the persons,chiefly for the reason which I have just given – because they are bad judges in theirown affairs; and secondly, because both the parties to the argument are speaking ofa limited and partial justice, but imagine themselves to be speaking of absolutejustice. For the one party, if they are unequal in one respect, for example wealth,consider themselves to be unequal in all; and the other party, if they are equal inone respect, for example free birth, consider themselves to be equal in all. But theyleave out the capital point. For if men met and associated out of regard to wealthonly, their share in the state would be proportioned to their property, and theoligarchical doctrine would then seem to carry the day. It would not be just that hewho paid one mina should have the same share of a hundred minae, whether of theprincipal or of the profits, as he who paid the remaining ninety-nine. But a stateexists for the sake of a good life, and not for the sake of life only: if life only werethe object, slaves and brute animals might form a state, but they cannot, for theyhave no share in happiness or in a life of free choice. Nor does a state exist for thesake of alliance and security from injustice, nor yet for the sake of exchange andmutual intercourse; for then the Tyrrhenians and the Carthaginians, and all whohave commercial treaties with one another, would be the citizens of one state. True,they have agreements about imports, and engagements that they will do no wrong
to one another, and written articles of alliance. But there are no magistratescommon to the contracting parties who will enforce their engagements; differentstates have each their own magistracies. Nor does one state take care that thecitizens of the other are such as they ought to be, nor see that those who comeunder the terms of the treaty do no wrong or wickedness at an, but only that theydo no injustice to one another. Whereas, those who care for good government takeinto consideration excellence and defect. Whence it may be further inferred thatexcellence must be the care of a state which is truly so called, and not merelyenjoys the name: for without this end the community becomes a mere alliancewhich differs only in place from alliances of which the members live apart; andlaw is only a convention, ‘a surety to one another of justice,’ as the sophistLycophron says, and has no real power to make the citizens good and just.
This is obvious; for suppose distinct places, such as Corinth and Megara, to bebrought together so that their walls touched, still they would not be one city, noteven if the citizens had the right to intermarry, which is one of the rights peculiarlycharacteristic of states. Again, if men dwelt at a distance from one another, but notso far off as to have no intercourse, and there were laws among them that theyshould not wrong each other in their exchanges, neither would this be a state. Letus suppose that one man is a carpenter, another a husbandman, another ashoemaker, and so on, and that their number is ten thousand: nevertheless, if theyhave nothing in common but exchange, alliance, and the like, that would notconstitute a state. Why is this? Surely not because they are at a distance from oneanother: for even supposing that such a community were to meet in one place, butthat each man had a house of his own, which was in a manner his state, and thatthey made alliance with one another, but only against evil-doers; still an accuratethinker would not deem this to be a state, if their intercourse with one another wasof the same character after as before their union. It is clear then that a state is not amere society, having a common place, established for the prevention of mutualcrime and for the sake of exchange. These are conditions without which a statecannot exist; but all of them together do not constitute a state, which is acommunity of families and aggregations of families in well-being, for the sake of aperfect and self-sufficing life. Such a community can only be established amongthose who live in the same place and intermarry. Hence arise in cities familyconnections, brotherhoods, common sacrifices, amusements which draw mentogether. But these are created by friendship, for the will to live together isfriendship. The end of the state is the good life, and these are the means towards it. And the state is the union of families and villages in a perfect and self-sufficing
life, by which we mean a happy and honorable life.
Our conclusion, then, is that political society exists for the sake of noble actions,and not of mere companionship. Hence they who contribute most to such a societyhave a greater share in it than those who have the same or a greater freedom ornobility of birth but are inferior to them in political excellence; or than those whoexceed them in wealth but are surpassed by them in excellence.
From what has been said it will be clearly seen that all the partisans of differentforms of government speak of a part of justice only.
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